- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — He doesn’t have to worry about the fan reaction when his name is called during pregame introductions, or hear a chorus of boos every time he misses a shot. He does his best to tune it out, but Andray Blatche understands that for most Wizards fans, he’s become the poster child for all that ails Washington in its 2-14 start.

Relaxing with his teammates in the visitors’ locker room Monday, Blatche admitted that his confidence might be a little bit down, and knows he’s struggling with his game right now.

“It’s probably because they expect better of me,” Blatche said of fans who boo him. “They could be right, I don’t know. For some reason, I’m just in this big funk. I can’t hit a shot, can’t do what I want, it’s just crazy.”

But things are sometimes easier on the road.

“I actually come out and I’m not so hesitant,” Blatche said. “I do what I really want to do, and not worry about getting booed.”

Blatche drew intense criticism this season after the Wizards’ opening- night loss to the New Jersey Nets, stating that he needing the ball in the paint more — the same night he introduced himself as the Wizards’ team captain.

When his statements were characterized as being critical of the coaching staff, Blatche issued a rebuttal on Twitter, stating that “everybody just need to shut up — I did not call out my coaches.”

Blatche seems to understand the impact of that misstep, but he’s hoping a few wins will make things better for everyone — the fans, his teammates and himself.

“Once we start doing better as a team, get a few ‘W’s’, things will change,” he said. “When you’re losing, everything is under a magnifying glass.”

Roger Mason Jr. believes Blatche looks forward to road games, because no player wants to be booed at home.

“It’s a difficult situation, but I think he’s handling it well,” Mason said. “The biggest thing I tell him is, ‘You just have to stay positive.’ We need him out there. It’s kind of counterproductive [the booing], but at the same time, fans have a right to voice their opinion, so he’s just got to fight through it.”

Mason said he’d like to interview some of the fans to understand why Blatche has become the primary target for the boo birds in the Verizon Center stands.

“Dray has made some mistakes. What he said earlier in the year was definitely taken out of context. I think he meant well, but it just didn’t quite come across that way,” Mason said. “At the same time, this is what we sign up for. It’s not always roses. It’s not always how we want it to be. You’ve got to be mentally strong.”

Wizards coach Flip Saunders also understands the fans’ frustration, but believes the incessant booing won’t solve anything.

“I can understand where fans become very upset, but booing is not going to help somebody play better,” Saunders said. “It’s showing displeasure, but I don’t think that by booing, all of a sudden he’s going to get 20 points and 15 rebounds because we’re booing him. If that was the case, everyone would do it.

“But hey, he’s who we are. He’s part of our family. We’re going to help him get through it.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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